A guide to forgiving yourself for making mistakes

Even Alexander Pope once said, to err is human, to forgive is divine.

Harper's Bazaar India

We all make mistakes. Big ones, inconsequential ones, and life-altering ones, too. Remember when Oprah Winfrey was told she was unfit for her job and fired as a television anchor? Or when Kim Kardashian was heavily tolled for misspelling Giorgio Armani in a tweet? Or when you accidentaly sent out a super sassy email, meant only for your work bestie? Well, it turns out that being fired was the best thing that happened to Oprah, everybody forgot about Kim K’s tweet the very next day, and your boss had a good laugh with a witty email in the midst of a hectic day. 

When we make mistakes, we convince ourselves that it’s the end of the world. We berate ourselves for faltering and stumbling. And this is coupled with overwhelming feelings of guilt and fear of what others may say. While some people may have mastered the ability to make peace with the mistakes they may make, others (much like me) may find it incredibly hard to forgive themselves and move on. So, here’s a step-by-step guide that we hope will help you forgive yourself more often. Remember—you’re only human. 

Acknowledge the mistake 

The first step towards forgiveness is acknowledging that you made a mistake. Take as long as you need to recognise and acknowledge it, but we urge you to do it. It may further help to acknowledge the mistake out loud or pen it down in a journal. “When you give a voice to the thoughts in your head and the emotions in your heart, you may free yourself from some of the burdens,” writes Sara Lindberg. 

Recognise and understand how it makes you feel
The next step is to focus on your emotions and understand what you’re feeling—it can range from feeling extreme guilt and a sinking feeling in your stomach, to anger and disappointment. Allow yourself to feel these emotions completely instead of brushing them aside or suppressing them for a prolonged period. This will ease the process of forgiving yourself. 

Have a conversation with yourself 

When we falter, we tend to beat ourselves up for it and criticise ourselves for the error of our ways. At that time, having a conversation with yourself and your inner critic may help you circumvent the situation. Take out some time to pen down the negativity you are feeling towards yourself—however irrational or critical it may be—followed by your strengths and areas of improvement. This will help boost your confidence and view the situation with a balanced perspective. 

Know that every mistake brings with it a learning experience 
Remind yourself that everybody makes mistakes and that every mistake brings with it a learning experience. Whether it was sending the wrong email to the wrong person or anything else, you’ll learn not to repeat them. You will know how to improve and maybe be unafraid to fail or falter. 

Be compassionate and kind towards yourself 

Here’s your cue to be your own best friend. Think of what you would say to your best friend going through a similar situation. You wouldn’t be hard on them, so, why behave that way towards yourself? Treat yourself with kindness and compassion, just as you would with your closest ones. Allow yourself to falter, forgive yourself, and move on. 

Don’t be afraid to falter again 
Sometimes mistakes can come with irreversible consequences, judgements, and more. But someone once said, “Don’t let the fear of striking out, keep you from playing the game.” Don’t miss out on opportunities only because you think you may mess up. Remember, it’s okay to make mistakes and falter—they might just end up being the most valuable lessons you learn.